I watch American Idol.
There. I admitted it. Think less of me, if you will.
I was watching this week when the (very) young Scotty McCreery sang “Where were you (when the world stopped turning)” by country superstar Alan Jackson.
I don’t generally listen to country music, unless you count old Johnny Cash songs and that folksy-bluesy-country mix that some songwriters are performing lately. I don’t think, before this season of Idol, I had ever heard an Alan Jackson song.
And after hearing McCreery sing one the other night, I’m glad.
Because, frankly, the lyrics pissed me off.
The chorus of the song, which is about “where you were” on Sept. 11, 2001, starts out, “I’m just a singer of simple songs, I’m not a real political man.”
Not exactly earth shattering writing there, but fine.
It was the next few lines that got my blood boiling (just ask my husband, who was a little shocked by how angry I was getting over an American Idol performance).
“I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran.”
So basically, he’s an intentionally ignorant moron (who doesn’t understand grammar either: It’s the difference BETWEEN Iraq and Iran. Too many syllables, I suppose). He then goes on to thank god and Jesus for giving us “faith and hope and love.”
Faith, hope, love — All good things, for sure.
Ignorance — Not so much.
Being proud enough of your ignorance to trumpet to the world in the form of a hit song — Tragic.
And I don’t use the term “tragic” lightly.
As someone who works with young people at the college level in Central Maine, many of whom listen to country music, encouraging people to be ignorant of the difference between two of the most influential countries in the modern world does a disservice to the general population, particularly Jackson’s audience.
I have many students who proudly proclaim they’ve gotten through high school without reading a book, that they’ve never written an essay on their own, or don’t have any idea what’s happening in the world.
Why do they proudly proclaim their ignorance? Because their role models are proudly ignorant as well.
The impact is local and global.
I’ve had students suggest the Muslim people in their community are from Iraq (the vast majority are from countries in North Africa, such as Somalia and Sudan) and write essays about why they should “go back to their own countries.”
That kind of ignorance, particularly from young people (many of whom’s families were immigrants from Canada) is troubling and does not speak well about the future.
And on a global scale, if the American people don’t know the difference between a country where we have American troops after toppling that country’s dictator, and a country that is openly hostile to American interests and Israel, and is developing nuclear weapons technology, then there’s no way the American people can be sure they’re electing the right people to protect our interests and us.
In this modern world, ignorance is more than tragic, it’s dangerous.
And with children all over the world actively studying, working hard to advance themselves and their countries, it won’t be long before competition for resources will come down to who’s the better negotiator instead of who has the biggest bomb.
And at that point, it’d be good to know the difference between Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Alan Jackson’s song should never have been written, Scotty McCreery should never have sung it, and, at the very least, America should have voted McCreery off the show for spreading such a terrible message to millions of impressionable listeners.
Just goes to show how ignorant we choose to be.